I was sitting down at my kitchen table a few Saturdays ago when my phone rings. It was a friend doing the proverbial trap he is good at. He says, “What are you doing?”, “Nothing”, I reply. “Well then, you have no excuse to get down here to the Grange to hear us play!” Ha!
So, I go… And, well, what fun! It was amazing to see families gathered from the youngest to the oldest dancing around the floor enjoying a good old fashioned country western dance, or honky tonk as we called it growing up. As I watched, I realized it was much more than fun. Families were connecting and building relationships with each other as well as with their neighbors and relatives. But what they were also doing – from toddler to ninety-year-old, was moving their bodies – or what we in the health field call “exercising”.
I realize as a family practitioner, passionate about helping people stay healthy and avoid illnesses such as depression, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and Alzheimer’s that I have overlooked a wonderful way to encourage my patients to move their bodies. Dancing, to many, has much more appeal than hanging out at the local gym. So what are the benefits to dancing?
1. Physical Fitness. Thanks to the discovery of Irving Dardik, MD (one of the fathers of interval training and chairperson for the Olympics Committee) and other professional colleagues, we now know that short bursts of accelerating exertion with a resting phase between bursts strengthens and protects our cardiovascular system. As little as 10 minutes a day of this type of exercise can help one lose weight, lower their blood pressure and cholesterol, help blood sugar, and build endurance, all lowering ones risk of heart attack or stroke. Dancing will also help build flexibility, balance and coordination, lowering our risk of falling and hurting themselves. Moving the body lubricates the joints and reduces arthritic pain. And let’s face it, dancing helps build poise and grace to help us look and feel more attractive.
2. Intellectual Stimulation and Better Income. The New England Journal of Medicine completed a 21 year study with the finding that dancing can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia in the elderly. For the younger, it will help keep us sharp as well. This is a wonderful way for creativity to be explored and expressed. Studies show that kids who have artistic endeavors included in their upbringing are more apt to graduate from high school and attend college. The national average of a college graduate compare to a high school graduate income is double ($60,000 versus less than $30,000).
3. Social Development. I mentioned above the obvious positive effects of families spending time together bonding and learning how to communicate by dancing together. There are plenty of studies that demonstrate that families who do things together tend to have less incidence of divorce and kids tend to do better academically in school and have fewer tendencies to abuse drugs and engage in gang related behavior.
So, get those bodies moving! For some, exercise is the thrill of a careening mountain bike or a peaceful jog on a nature trail. But for young and old alike, dancing is a great way to combine physical activity with relationship building and an opportunity to hear some great music from the jukebox or some of our local talent. Hope to see you on the dance floor!
Renae Blanton, MSN, ANP is a Family Nurse Practitioner at Sonas Integrative Medical Center. She specializes in integrative family medicine with a focus on environmental issues such as lead toxicity, anti-aging, women’s health and chronic disease and illness. She can be reached at 970-247-2500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.